When Macduff"s child defends his father"s honor when the murderers sent by Macbeth call Macduff a traitor in Macbeth, they wind up stabbing the son:

Go into Murderers.

You are watching: What you egg young fry of treachery

FIRST MURDERER: Wright here is your husband?LADY MACDUFF: I hope, in no location so unsanctified where such as thou mayst discover him.FIRST MURDERER: He’s a traitor.SON: Thou liest, thou shag-ear’d villain!FIRST MURDERER: What, you egg! Young fry of treachery!-Macbeth

What"s up through the "What, you egg!" line? Why does the murderer call the boy an egg? It appears completely unrelated to anything else, and doesn"t seem favor a witty comeago to the son"s "shag-ear"d villain" insult.


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A. R. Braunmuller (Macbeth, New Cambridge Shakespeare, 1997) provides the following gloss:

Contemptuous epithet for a young perchild (OED Egg sb 2b, citing just this line and also another from 1835); (...)

G. K. Hunter"s edition of the play (New Penguin Shakespeare, 1967) does not carry out a gloss below.

Braunmuller likewise web links the murderer"s word option via the proverb "An evil bird lays an evil egg" (cited in Robert W. Dent"s Shakespeare"s Proverbial Language: An Index, 1981, B376).

The murderer likewise calls Macduff"s boy "fry of treachery". Fry indicates fish-generate (G. K. Hunter) or "progeny, (...), brood" (Wiktionary) and also is an additional "contemptuous epithet". It is also worth noting that the word alternative "egg" fits the bird imagery in Macbeth.


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When Shakespeare supplies an unfamiliar or idiomatic word or expression, he quite often doubles it via an extra conventional one, through the result of explaining it "in location." There"s a great instance of this in other places in Macbeth, once the eponymous villain claims "Will all great Neptune’s sea wash this blood clean from my hand? No, this my hand also will rather the multitudinous seas incarnadine, making the green one red." Incarnadine is for this reason explained as making the green one red.

If we check out the exact same approach at work-related below, then "egg" = "young fry of treachery." So Macduff Jr. is being below accoffered of adhering to in the traitorous footmeasures of his father. The apple does not fall far from the tree, nor the egg from the hen that laid it, being the basic implication.


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